Walt Whitman pupil Chris Beaumont is apparently one of the few students who does not cheat in the math class of no-nonsense teacher Howard Bruckner. When Bruckner unfairly accuses Beaumont of cheating, too, however, Beaumont begins to think that perhaps he should take the easier way out, too -- especially when another student, Ferdie Landis, offers him an "advance copy" of Bruckner's next exam.
Pam Arnold is thrilled when she is awarded a scholarship to one of the best art schools in the country. But when Principal Seymour Kaufman thanks Ken Dragen, the head of the English Department, for recommending her for the scholarship, he denies ever having signed her application form.
Walt Whitman welcomes a new civics teacher, Mr. Bomberg, whose previous experience teaching was in New York and New Jersey. Bomberg's approach to teaching civics, however, is to use shouting, insults, and physical isolation of students who aren't prepared for the day's lesson. When this leads most of his class to request a transfer en masse, a parents' committee demands that he be replaced. But Bomberg has a surprise defender -- soft-spoken Pete Dixon, whose own teaching methods are diametrically the opposite of Bomberg's approach.
Walt Whitman Principal Seymour Kaufman takes a personal interest in the situation of one student, Jerry Cates, who is a standout basketball player but whose grades have been tumbling, and who frequently falls asleep in class. Kaufman discovers that Jerry's mother has more or less abandoned him, forcing him to take on a night job just to pay the rent -- meaning that Jerry may end up in a foster home unless some other arrangements for his welfare.
Liz McIntyre is rotated to the "opportunity room," a kind of detention in a classroom setting. Her most difficult charges are Tamara, a dreamy girl who nevertheless excels at art; and George Badgely, who resents authority and is the most difficult student to reach. Beset with a room full of troublemakers, Liz decides to take up George's contention that teachers are the problem: she has the students help each other with their best subjects -- and tries putting George himself in charge of the class.
Charlie Morano and Abbie Domier confess that they have been married for more than four months while keeping the marriage a secret, having disregarded advice from Pete Dixon and Liz McIntyre that they should wait to tie the knot. Faced with the fact of Charlie's and Abbie's marriage, however, Pete and Liz now suggest that the newlyweds admit the truth to their parents -- whatever the consequences.
Feelings are running high between Walt Whitman High and its arch-rival, Daniel Webster High before the annual football game between the two schools. Whitman's principal and that of Webster are even considering canceling the game, fearing a riot between the two student bodies. Pete Dixon, however, proposes that the students be allowed to organize a "cool it" campaign to stress rivalry without violence. But he runs into resistance from Augie Cerutti, the captain of Whitman's football team, who is determined to win the campaign against Webster using any means available.
Someone has been committing acts of vandalism, such as dumping a bag of trash on some students during lunch, to call attention to the growing problem of pollution. The culprit disguises himself as "Paul Revere," and signs notes taking credit for the actions with Revere's name. Pete Dixon, however, figures out that the perpetrator is one of his students who holds Revere in high esteem. When Pete guesses the truth, the student swears him to secrecy -- but Pete has trouble abiding by his promise when the vandalism escalates to more serious -- and potentially criminal -- ...
Alice Johnson finds herself exhausted to the point of collapse, as she not only teaches class by day, but also spends hours grading papers - in between counseling students about the problems in their personal lives. Her problems begin to turn into a crisis, however, when she agrees to let the students read "Catch-22" before tackling "Silas Marner", and then is caught having signed a less than truthful note about where one of her students was after school.
Former Walt Whitman student Monty Harris returns after two years in the Marines to finish his senior year at his old high school. He expects that he will now be admired by the other students because of his real-world experience. But he finds that the language and the mind-set of the students has changed from what he remembers, and that their attitude toward him is different from what he anticipates.
Many of the boys in Alice Johnson's English class over-react to Laura Fay, a transfer student whom they find quite attractive. Laura Fay herself is a sensitive young woman who loves poetry, and who jumps at the chance to try out for a "College Bowl"-style competition between Whitman and other high schools. But as the harassment by her male peers continues, she decides to drop out of the competition -- and perhaps out of school as well.
Principal Seymour Kaufman is concerned about the prevalence of drug use at Whitman, and asks for suggestions how the teachers can help the students with this problem. Pete Dixon suggests setting aside a room where anyone who wants -- students or teachers -- can enter at certain times and talk freely, with assurances that nothing said will leave the room. At first the approach draws little interest from the students -- but then as it begins to show some promise, the school board decides it might want to shut the project down.